This week, we speak with Joel Newton, executive director of Edgewater Collective, a nonprofit that seeks to cultivate partnerships to “foster thriving Edgewater families, schools and community” using a collective impact perspective.

1. Tell us about you and your organization and the social change you are trying to achieve.

“I started Edgewater Collective four years ago as a dad of two daughters who attend our neighborhood school. I noticed the need for increased community support of the schools and investment in education. Edgewater Collective is focused on cultivating partnerships to foster thriving Edgewater families, schools and community. Our main project right now is a cradle-to-career collective impact project called the Jefferson Success Pathway, which focuses on the dream of all children in our area succeeding from cradle to career.”

2. What keeps you inspired and going when things get tough?

“I am continually inspired by our local students and their perseverance against the roadblocks of poverty. Some students and families drive quite a ways to attend our schools and work hard to overcome barriers like language and immigration status. I am also inspired by the determination, hard work and compassion that our teachers and school staff exhibit. They deeply care about their work and love their students. I am inspired to support them the way they support kids.”

3. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to start a collective impact initiative?

“Steal ideas. Research collective impact in the field you are focused on. Don’t be afraid to make the model your own and change it up to fit your context. Talk to those who have been doing the work for a while and ask them about what to expect on the journey. Doing this has really helped us be agile and see obstacles coming our way that others had told us about.”

4. What book do you recommend to everyone you meet and why? OR What book is on your to-read list and why?

“I am addicted to any books or ideas that Patrick Lencioni puts out. I love the title and the content of his book Death by Meeting. So many of us spend far too much time in meetings that are poorly and ineffectively run. Read this book, and your meetings will be the ones that people want to attend. Also highly recommend his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.”

5. How have you worked with Joining Vision and Action (JVA), and how has that helped your organization?

“The Executive Director Academy was priceless as I started my work as an executive director. The training covered many of the areas of my work as the leader of a nonprofit. I regularly come back to the binder I received in that training to continue my learning. My organization also worked with JVA to find the best partner for a mentoring program at our local high school. JVA did an excellent job listening to our hopes and dreams for this partner and developed an RFP to find the best fit.”

6. What else would you want to share with us that we haven’t asked?

“Janine and her staff have their ears to the ground and are invaluable partners in understanding trends and sharpening our skills for this very important work. Thank you, Joining Vision and Action!”